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[2021 NBA Draft; 24th overall] Rockets select Josh Christopher

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by J.R., Jul 29, 2021.

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Do you like the selection of Josh Christopher?

  1. YES

    56.3%
  2. NO

    43.8%
  1. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    Josh Christopher Q&A on defense, the draft and doubters: ‘I landed in a perfect situation’
    https://theathletic.com/2761721/202...and-doubters-i-landed-in-a-perfect-situation/

    LAS VEGAS — For the majority of Houston’s opening Summer League matchup with the Cleveland Cavailers, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas seemed like he just wanted to blend in the background.

    Seated on the opposite side of the floor from the team’s bench, the only times he wasn’t fixated on the game were when he either nodded in approval to himself at something happening on the floor or spoke with general manager Rafael Stone.

    But with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter and the Rockets clinging to a 51-48 lead, something caught Silas’ eye.

    Josh Christopher was in a low, aggressive defensive stance at half court, his entire focus on Isaac Okoro, tasked with playmaking duties. His hands ready for violence, his legs ready for vibes. Okoro tried to drive to the right, but Christopher beat him to the spot, forcing Okoro to reconsider.

    Evan Mobley, the third pick in the draft, quickly realized that Okoro might be in a pickle and moved toward him to try to free him up with a high screen. Christopher jumped the angle and poked the ball from behind Okoro, in his best Trevor Ariza impression. The ball rolled into the backcourt, with Christopher clawing and diving at the ball, doing anything to wreak havoc on Okoro. Patrick Beverley would be proud.

    By the time Okoro could pick the ball up and attempt to get back over halfway, both players were close to where Silas was seated. Now, he was intrigued.

    Silas started clapping furiously, his voice raised to match the intensity of the moment. “Yeaaaaaaa!” he roared.

    In that moment, a message was conveyed. Silas, as much of an offensive savant as he is, craves defense. He feeds off it. His rotations during his inaugural season in Houston were heavily influenced by who cared about exerting effort on the less sexy end of the floor.

    Christopher, the 24th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, wasn’t the star of the show that evening. He wasn’t who the majority of fans flocked to Thomas & Mack Center to see, as that privilege is left for Jalen Green and Mobley.

    But making your presence felt at a party is oftentimes bigger than being invited to the party at all. And Christopher wants to make an impact by any means necessary.

    “I was really happy with the way he pressured the ball,” Stone told The Athletic. “I feel like he made the opposing player uncomfortable numerous times. I don’t know how many steals he ended up with, but I can think of at least five plays where he either created a turnover or created a really good turnover opportunity. I loved his physicality on the ball, getting into the ball. I thought it was impactful and set a good tone for our team.”

    Truth be told, the Rockets consider themselves lucky to have Christopher on their roster. It’s the perfect storm of background work, opportunity and aggressiveness.

    By the time the Rockets brass saw Christopher perform in Chicago for the draft combine a month and a half ago, most of the homework had been done already. Christopher had long been on Houston’s radar, having been scouted not only during his lone season at Arizona State University but even during his years at Mayfair High School in California.

    Through the process, albeit a difficult one to navigate because of COVID restrictions, Houston saw something to monitor. His pre-college production was compared to his college numbers, but the overwhelming feeling was the strengths shone bright.

    The Rockets learned Christopher excelled in space and in transition and that he was strong with the ball in his hands. He wasn’t seen as a traditional point guard, but his attacking fluidity and skill set were an unusual pairing given his physical attributes. One area that was highlighted to work on was his shot selection, but the shooting splits over the years showed growth.

    Defensively, however, is where the Rockets were intrigued. Christopher’s man-to-man defense was evaluated as excellent. The levels of engagement on that end of the floor had varied over the years, but that was more through a team defense lens. When it came to individual abilities, Christopher had the tools.

    These beliefs were only strengthened during the Chicago combine. The Rockets, seated as close to the action as possible, were impressed with Christopher’s defensive communication above all, yelling the entire time. He was one of the most vocal players that week, if not the most. That was as good of a sign as ever that there was potential of being an impactful team defender, as well.

    On draft night, however, Houston was worried. After taking Turkish center Alperen Sengun with the 16th overall pick, Christopher and Spanish forward Usman Garuba were the top guys remaining on their big board. There was also another big man, but there were no other wings. Houston was nervous that neither player would fall to them. Their apprehension was so much so that there were plans to trade the pick if Christopher had been taken one pick earlier at 22.

    As fate would have it, Houston was able to come away from draft night with all four players they wanted.

    “I think Josh is a dynamic two-way player who already has the capacity to be a really impactful on-ball defender, as well as someone who’s a constant threat with the ball in his hands in transition,” Stone said.

    The Athletic recently sat down with Christopher after a Rockets practice in Vegas to talk defense, the draft, doubters and more. Parts of the interview have been edited for clarity.
     
    D-rock, Verbal Christ, BamBam and 6 others like this.
  2. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    From my vantage point, you made the biggest impact defensively against the Cavs. Why was that so important for you in your first Summer League outing?

    This is my job. They told me to come strap up. That was my job. So just being in shape with the preparation I put myself through the whole pre-draft process and the week of training we had with the Rockets, I was just ready to go, man. Somebody has to be that one to stop guys on the floor — defense wins championships. So I’ll take pride in that.

    You mentioned the pre-draft process. There were scouts and mock drafts saying your defense needed work but you were aggressive in that aspect during the combine — communication-wise, technique-wise. What about that period showed you what you needed to do?

    I just saw that I was really good at pressuring the ball. 6’5 with a 6’9 wingspan, 215. So I think defense is just effort, and I have some physical gifts that allow me to do what I do on the court. So just applying those to help the team win. That’s all I want to do.

    Vid

    Any of that come from your time at ASU? We talk about the legacy of 13, playing under Bobby Hurley. How was that whole experience for you?

    I had fun being with my brother, playing with [Coach] Hurley, you get an opportunity just to get out and go.The guys he recruits to his team, he gets talented guys that can just play ball. So it gave me an opportunity as a 19 year old to come play with a lot of upperclassmen. I got the chance. Being with older guys and just battling.

    Any specific things you did to work on your defense? Drills, technique work, anything like that?

    Just a lot of sliding, and a lot of moving. But a lot of it having so many elite guards on ASU, it was a challenge every day having to guard them. So I think that alone helped me get better on defense, just knowing that I had a challenge every day in practice.

    I recently saw a video of you training with John Lucas III, working on ball handling, movement. You’re fluid with the ball in your hands — does that come more from training or more of a mental thing?

    Just having confidence. All my life I’ve been able just to play ball. So having that confidence and having a little flair, I guess. Just being me, that’s who I am. I don’t know where it comes from, I guess I watched a lot of basketball. The training with John Lucas, he got my handle really tight. When the ball is in my hands, it’s not really to often somebody is going to be able to take it away from me. So I’m pretty much able to do what I can with it.

    Speaking of Lucas, how has it been working now with his dad, John Lucas and being in more of a pro setting?

    I mean, especially being with John Lucas III this past summer, when I stepped in Houston, a lot of the stuff was similar. I’ve been able to adapt pretty quickly. All the guys are super positive, they just say come be yourself. They just say embrace who you are. And if you come in and work, it’s gonna be a simple process.

    Sounds like that mentality has been with you for a while. How was it growing up in a basketball home?

    Just having fun, man.I love the game of basketball and everything that comes with it. So I mean, the ups the downs, my heart is in the game of basketball. That’s just who I am and all my siblings played it. My dad is all about it, having my parents and my grandma’s sixty — she played in high school. So just being a part of a basketball legacy. That’s who I am and the Christopher family is about basketball.

    Want to touch back to your debut. You eased your way into the game, shook off some rust as it wore on. The off-ball role seemed to suit you well, able to play with other ball handlers at the same time.

    I’m just a hooper at the end of the day. Wherever a coach needs to have me on the court to get a W, I could be there. I’ll pick the ball full court. I’ll be on the help side to block shots. I could play the one a little bit just because in high school, I had the ball in my hands for the majority of the game. So I was facilitating having to get other guys open. I was able to do that. Just knowing reads, knowing who has the hot hand. Jalen Green got really hot so it was a simple play where I just said Jalen go to the corner, Al P go get him come shoot the ball, he knocked it down.

    So just being smart,. knowing the game and you know how to get leads and how to win. Honestly, it’s who I am. Playing off the ball. I had to do a lot of that at ASU. So just learning how to penetrate when I catch, and just play ball. That’s what basketball is.

    As you know scouting is an imperfect science. Sometimes, players — like yourself — have layers to their game that even the brightest minds don’t know about. Seems like a lot of people didn’t see the defense, the intangibles and paid more attention to the offensive side of the ball. What do you say to that?

    I think now I get the opportunity to kind of display everything. Like yesterday, I think I was all over the court defensively. I was facilitating, we all got to play a little bit of point guard. Had a couple of good passes, got in the lane, my three ball didn’t fall but it’s a process. I’m gonna be in the NBA for a long time, that’s the hope. Everything that I want to go after and learn and grasp, I’m gonna get it. So it’s all about the grind. They can say what they want, but I’m a grinder. So whatever they say about me eventually, I’ll get there.

    Are there any guys in the NBA that you watch film on, maybe try to take parts of their defensive game from? Whose game are you studying?

    Jrue Holiday. Raf told me come be our Jrue Holiday before I even got drafted. He was like, yeah I can see you being like a Jrue Holiday. So just taking that and then applying it. Jrue Holiday’s a great offensive player, but he’s also a defensive player. So without having to be strictly a defensive player, I can still have that freedom of being offensive, but at the same time, it’s just playing basketball. You could take pride in defense just as much as offense. So, stopping guys, it’s just as fun as putting the ball in the basket to me.

    Whatever goals you set for yourself start with hard work. Your offseason regimen is pretty intense, from the videos I’ve seen on Instagram. How hard have those sessions been?

    We go hard. These workouts are an hour. It’s 24 hours in a day. So this one hour of my day, I could really grind and go rest later and have fun. I always say it’s 24 hours in a day. So if I want to be the hardest worker in the gym and then go be the the biggest kid I want to be in the rest of those hours, I could do that. But as long as I’m in the gym, taking serious lock in, get in and get out and handle business.

    The relationship with you and Jalen has obviously been strong since the two of you were kids. How is that now, seeing the journey from your perspective of both of you coming up? Has to be a testament to brotherhood..

    Everybody was saying I was a steal in the draft. But I mean, to me, I landed in a perfect situation. Me dropping to 24 was probably the best thing that could happen to me. Because now I’m in a situation where I can play with Jay. I played with K.J. after my freshman year in high school in the AAU circuit. I just have a feel for these guys on the court. Like the first day of training camp, I was making plays to these guys and it’s already like a genuine chemistry going on. It’s been like a simple transition, man.

    We didn’t have to really get a feel for each other because we already had it you know? We’re gonna learn more about each other as time goes on because we’re gonna be with each other all the time. But it’s been a very, very simple process and finding each other and just wanting to see each other succeed. Jalen had the hot hand. I didn’t have to worry about scoring the ball because he was hot. So feed my open man, feed my friend and watch him eat man, it was really exciting to see him ball out.

    How have the first few practices been? Saw you going through a shooting drill at the end with some of the other guys.

    They really want us to come get our work in and get out. They don’t really like us doing too, too much extra. Just because we have so many games right now, especially when the real NBA season comes on. It’s an 82 game season. So me being the worker that I am, I have to find that balance of getting my work in but keeping my body in the best shape it could possibly be. It’s a process and I’m learning so I just figured out routines to make sure I’m in tip top shape.

    What do you want your biggest takeaway from Summer League to be?

    What is the biggest takeaway? I just want to win. So I mean, the biggest takeaway I can get is doing whatever it takes to win the ballgame. Just being ready to go, being the dog that I am and doing what it takes, getting on the floor. I think I hit the deck a couple of times, but I’ll put my body on the line to make sure we get that W, that’s the most important thing to me. So everything else will come.
     
  3. Rockets4Life13

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    You're a gem, man.

    Thank you for all you do for this board.
     
  4. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

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    The young ones will motivate each other. That's the best take out of it.
     
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  5. vator

    vator Contributing Member

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  6. TheMystery008

    TheMystery008 Member

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    Wasn’t on board with this pick.

    But he’s making me eat crow now.

    What a draft Stone?!
     
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  7. clos4life

    clos4life Contributing Member

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    Okay, it's official, I'm changing my mind. I love his intensity.
     
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  8. boomboom

    boomboom I GOT 99 PROBLEMS
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    I'm getting drunk on the Josh Christopher Kool aid.
     
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  9. DM'sVP

    DM'sVP Member

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    I’m glad that I reserved my opinion until I saw him play. Now I see that the kid has skills, defense, intensity and a real chemistry with JG. I’m going to really enjoy his **** talking during the season as well.
     
  10. Patience

    Patience Contributing Member

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    He's still a little trigger happy for my taste. I hope he can tone that down once he is playing in real NBA games.
     
  11. Juxtaposed Jolt

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    Glad to see so many people walk back their comments.

    Even if he turns out to eventually be a bad pick, he was still 24th overall. Much easier to find a bad pick among low FRPs, than a Tony Parker or Jimmy Butler.
     
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  12. bj3175

    bj3175 Member

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    Christopher IS A BAD BOY. HE HAS A TENACITY
     
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  13. BossHogg713

    BossHogg713 Member

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    Appearance from GQ Model (Ben DuBose)

     
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  14. vlaurelio

    vlaurelio Contributing Member

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    thats on the coaching staff and trainers
     
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  15. Verbal Christ

    Verbal Christ Member

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    Is Marcus Smart a bad comp for Josh? I know JC has the size, but I look at his game style and it reminds me of Smart.
     
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  16. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

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    It's a pretty reasonable comparison. Smart is bigger than him. They're both combo guards.
     
  17. So Saith Red

    So Saith Red Member

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    I think he may be my favorite rocket since gg.
     
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  18. Verbal Christ

    Verbal Christ Member

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    Smart is a couple inches shorter I think, but seems thiccer even when their reported weight is only a 5 lb difference 220 vs 215. Both of them have that dog in them. Necessary glue guys.
     
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  19. D-rock

    D-rock Member

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  20. jakedasnake

    jakedasnake Member

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    Smart seems like a good comp but Christopher has more scoring upside and less PG skills. Smart was supposed to be a solid offensive player when he came out but really hasn't improved in that department but still a solid playmaker. Surprisingly poor finisher though.

    I am starting to think Christopher's best comp is Norman Powell but I don't know enough about Powell's defense to know if it is the best comp. Also, Powell is a pretty poor playmaker. Pretty sure Powell's calling card early in his career was his defense. I can see Powell upside on offense and Smart's upside on defense for Christopher. All 3 are big-bodied combo guards with solid wingspans for guards and get after you defensively.

    He is obviously pretty unique but if he can harness Smart's defense and playmaking on offense and Powell's ability to score, he will be a very good NBA player. The Jrue comps are nice so I am fine with that. Just seems like Christopher has a little more versatility and athleticism than Jrue (play him as a 3?). I do see more and more similarities between them since Jrue was 19 when he was first drafted at pick 17. Thought of as a combo guard but quickly showed some solid PG skills and ended up avg. 8 assists per game in his 3rd and 4th season. Not sure Christopher can be THAT good of a playmaker but I do know he is capable especially if he and the staff work on it a ton. Getting anywhere near Jrue, Powell, Smart production with the 24th pick will be an amazing feat by Stone. Will be interesting to watch and root for.
     
    #360 jakedasnake, Aug 12, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2021
    D-rock, saleem and Verbal Christ like this.

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